By Jake Donovan
Juan Manuel Lopez made his long awaited ring return Saturday evening at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The former two-division champ returned in emphatic fashion, winning nearly every round before stopping Aldimar Silva Santos (18-3, 9KO) in the ninth round of their DirecTV PPV-televised main event.
The bout was the first ring appearance for Lopez (31-2, 28KO) since his repeat stoppage loss to Orlando Salido last March. Lopez landed in hot water with stinging post-fight comments accusing referee Roberto Ramirez Sr. of allowing his alleged gambling habits to influence his judgment in the ring.
The Puerto Rico Boxing Commission voted to suspend Lopez for the remainder of 2012, the longest inactive stretch of his career. The ring rust didn't appear to have much effect, other than Silva lasting longer than expected.
That said, going nine rounds after 11 months of inactivity isn't necessarily a bad thing for Lopez.
Knockdowns came in rounds six and eight before Silva's best moments in the fight strangely came in a ninth round in which he was once again dropped and eventually stopped. Lopez won nearly every round prior to that point, but briefly ran into a little bit of trouble before rallying to once again deck the visiting Brazilian journeyman, this time to end the fight.
The official time was 1:04 of round nine.
Lopez improves to 32-2 (29KO) with the win, his first in 16 months - his longest stretch between victories through eight years as a pro.
Silva falls to 18-4 (9KO), having now lost three of his last six contests.
The bout took place at a catchweight of 128 lb, though Lopez has already stated his intentions to move up to a third weight class and fight at 130 lb.
MORE TO COME...
Jose 'Chelo' Gonzalez preserved a future mandatory lightweight title shot after scoring a sixth round stoppage of Mexico's Alejandro Rodriguez.
The bout was perhaps the most competitive of the evening for as long as it lasted. Rodriguez (18-9, 10KO) came to fight, but Gonzalez was more than game for the cause. The Puerto Rican picked up the pace with each passing round, until Rodriguez was forced to wilt, remaining on his stool at the start of round six.
Gonzalez (22-0, 17KO) is the mandatory contender to Ricky Burns' alphabet title, which could mean a crack at two belts. Burns is slated to face Miguel Vazquez in a lightweight unification match next month in the UK. The winner would have Gonzalez as at least one lingering mandatory challenger.
Teenage prodigy Felix Verdejo (3-0, 2KO) fought in his native Puerto Rico for the first time in his young career. The 19-year old boxer was swift and powerful in dispatching Jose Santiago (2-4-2, 2KO) inside of three rounds. Verdejo represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 Summer Games in London, advancing to the quarterfinals before succumbing to eventual Gold medalist and amateur superstar Vasyl Lomachenko.
Twin prospects McWilliams and McJoe Arroyo both left with 4th round stoppage wins in their respective bouts against late replacements.
McWilliams Arroyo (14-1, 12KO) had an easy night's work with Miguel Tayamo (14-6-2, 12KO), scoring a pair of third round knockdowns before stopping him one round later. Tayamo replaced former lineal flyweight champ Sonny Boy Jaro, who pulled out last month over a disagreement in weight.
McJoe Arroyo (12-0, 7KO) only spent three rounds fighting, but was credited with a stoppage when Felipe Rivas was unable to come out for round four. Rivas (14-2-1, 8KO) - a Fight Week replacement for former Rodrigo Guerrero, who failed to secure a visa to leave Mexico - was outfought in every round and injured his hand, the reason cited for his failing to leave his stool at the start of the fourth round.
Flyweight prospect Jonathan Gonzalez (11-0-0-1NC, 10KO) preserved his unbeaten record, though not in the fashion for which the 21-year old hoped. His bout with Omar Salado lasted just 73 seconds, ending when Salado (23-5-2-1NC,1 4KO) could no longer continue after an accidental blow to the base of his skull.
The fight was waved off and goes in the books as a no-contest since the scheduled ten round flyweight affair did not last four full rounds.
John Karl Sosa (5-0-4 KO) easily beat Daniel "La Roca" Rodriguez(1-8-1-1 KO) by unanimous decision in a bout fought at a catchweight of 150 lb. Rodriguez suffered a knockdown in the first round. The official scorecards were 40-35 (x3) - result provided by Giancarlo "Mr. Boxing" Oquendo
In the first fight of "Noche de Campeones", featherweight prospect Jomar Ortiz (3-0-2 KO's) secured a four round unanimous decision victory against Eliezer Agosto (1-2-1 KO's). The official scorecards were 40-36 (x3) - result provided by Giancarlo "Mr. Boxing" Oquendo